A FOIPA Request To The FBI Regarding Ryan Adams’ Investigation
Ryan Adams was declared ‘cleared by FBI,’ a year after the worst accusations were made against the singer-songwriter. Last month, Page Six reported that the investigation into Adams, which started in February 2019 after some infamous New York Times article, had closed without charging Adams with a crime. He was accused of ‘extensive communication’ with a young female fan named ‘Ava’, including more than 3,000 text messages and explicit photographs sent by Ava. A source told Page Six that ‘Ultimately, the FBI found no evidence that would support charging Ryan with a crime, and closed its investigation, without charges, in the fall of 2019.’
It was surprising to learn that the investigation had closed more than a year (fall 2019) before it was reported in the media (January 2021), and since many months have passed since the end of the investigation, I got tempted to ask for the FBI files through the FOIA. After all, the FBI has already made available plenty of its files on the FBI’s electronic FOIA library called ‘the Vault’, so I submitted a FOIPA request through the FBI’s electronic FOIPA portal and received an answer a few days later. They declined my request claiming several FOIA exemptions: (b)(6) and (b)(7)(C), 5 U.S.C, 552 (b)(6), and (b)(7)(C). Basically, (b)(6) says: ‘Personnel and medical files and similar files, the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,’ while (b)(7)(C) says more or less the same thing: ‘could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.’
According to Muckrock, the only way to get such files would be to get permission from Ryan Adams himself (or make the argument on public interest, but this can’t apply here), so there are little chances we will ever get the files. But we also have to keep something in mind: when the FBI mentions an ‘unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,’ it also concerns Ava. The FBI is likely retaining these documents because it would be an invasion of Ava’s privacy, especially if nude photos or messages of sexual nature were exchanged. So, they are not necessarily solely protecting Adams’ privacy there.
The important thing here is that Adams was cleared without any charges, but I didn’t want to see the files because of some sick voyeurism. I wanted to see the files because it would have been the only way to find out if the accusations were somehow justified. Ryan Adams reportedly asked Ava about her age (she was 16 at the time, in 2013) and she lied to him, telling him she was older. Their online conversation continued for years, even on Skype, although the two never met in person. The New York Times apparently read some of the text messages, as they are described and even quoted in the 2019 article. It would be obviously interesting to read the full conversation since, at this point, there are only 2 possibilities:
– Ryan Adams knew he was sexting to a minor, and he was truly aware he was soliciting sexual activities from an underage girl.
– or he sort of believed Ava when she told him she was underage and was sort of a skeptical idiot who made a poor decision and continued the communication, despite the fact she never showed him an I.D.
‘In Ohio, where Ava lived, it is a felony to solicit, exchange or possess any material that shows a person under 18 engaging in sexual activity,’ you can read in the New York Times article. Felony? But again, Adams was cleared by the FBI, right? The FBI didn’t find any evidence to support criminal charges against Adams, thus there was no felony. And remember, Ryan and Ava never met. If what the NYT had reported had been true, the FBI would have pressed charges – I don’t think the FBI has a reputation for being a lenient administration, especially toward sex offenders. The NYT allegations were unfounded, however, Adams was portrayed as a criminal.
It’s just a shame we don’t have the full picture, the full story, and it’s just a shame the NYT never posted a follow-up after this announcement. Isn’t it what good journalism is about? A google search still returns the 2019 incriminating article and people should know Ryan Adams was not found guilty.
Ava’s story was the most damning part of the article because of her age; if you take the underage part out of it, it is just a story about exes saying Ryan Adams was a jerk. It’s obviously not enough to put someone in jail or to cancel someone definitively – although cancel culture would probably fine with that.
It’s too bad my FOIPA request to the FBI failed, but, in the end, private affairs and personal lives were exposed in the media for a very specific purpose. The story had all the marks of revenge and grudge against an artist with many emotional problems and probably a narcissistic complex. It was not worth it, and the New York Times looks ridiculous.